Category Archives: History

We’ve Seen This Before, Late March New York City Snowstorm Shuts Down The City – 1956

Huge Snowstorm In March 1956 Paralyzed New York City and Suburbs

New York – Pedestrians trample their way through snow-covered streets here 3/19 after the worst snowfall in eight years crippled New York’s transportation system and left thousands of motorists stranded on the highway systems leading into the city. More than 2,000 cars were abandoned on the roads. photo United Press Telephoto 3/19/1956

Just in time for spring, the weather forecasters are predicting a lot of snow for New York City starting Tuesday, March 20. Possibly eight inches will fall across the area and then melt within a couple of days.

Snow becomes the main news story here in New York. This will be a small storm compared to the snowstorm that hit New York City on March 18 – 20, 1956.  By the time it was over, New York City received 13 and a half inches of snow, making travel in the region next to impossible.

New York – Snow business is bad business for the owner of a corner grocery store in suburban Queens here 3/20. Folks weren’t exactly beating a path to his door so he closed for the day. 3/20/1956 photo United Press Telephoto

What made this storm worse than others what not just the amount of snow but the surprise nature of it. Continue reading

The Type Of Qualities We Once Looked For In American Politics

Vanished Qualities And Standards In Filling A Political Office

When the president gets to choose a vacancy for a governmental office, shouldn’t the criteria used to fill that position sound something like this:

“In my nominations of persons to fill offices in the Judicial department I have been guided by the importance of the object. Considering it as of the first magnitude and as the pillar on which our political fabric must rest I have endeavored to bring into the high offices of its administration such character as will give stability and dignity to our National Government and I persuade myself they will discover a due desire to promote the happiness of our country by a ready acceptance of their several appointments.”

How eloquent.

Who said those poignant words? Continue reading

5 Things You Didn’t Know About New York History

Things You Didn’t Know About Divorce, Statues and Rapid Transit In New York City

Washington statue Union Square unveiled in 1856, an 80 year gap between public statues in New York City

Under English rule there was never a divorce in New York until 1787

When the Dutch founded New Amsterdam they allowed divorce but it was a rare occurrence. The English captured New Amsterdam in 1664  and after a brief retaking of the city by the Dutch in 1673, the English took permanent possession of the colony of New York until the Revolution. Over the next 100 years there was no divorce in New York.

Isaac Governeur became the first New Yorker granted a divorce in 1787. Up until then there had been no legal way of separating from your spouse. Alexander Hamilton created the law that allowed divorce in New York. The sole basis for being granted a divorce was adultery. Those who were desperate enough, went to another state that did allow divorce for other reasons. Incredibly, until 1966, adultery remained the only grounds for getting a divorce in New York.

The first successful manned flight in New York took place in 1819

A Frenchman, Charles Guillé who had made many successful balloon ascensions in France arrived in the United States in the summer of 1819. Continue reading

This Is The Only Color Film Footage Of Clara Bow The “It” Girl (And What Exactly Is “It”?)

Clara Bow The “It” Girl Made Only One Film In Color, and This One Minute Fragment Is All That That Survives

(And What Exactly is “It”)

Most movie fans never saw Clara Bow’s beautiful red hair except when illustrated on magazine covers. All but one of her films was made in black and white. Her red hair and Brooklyn childhood earned her, her original nickname “The Brooklyn Bonfire.”

So seeing the primitive color film clip below is a pleasant treat for classic movie fans.

With the exception of one film, Red Hair” which is now considered lost, this one minute fragment is all that survives of Clara Bow filmed in color.

If the last minute of Red Hair could be found we would see Clara Bow in as little clothing as the censors would allow.

So what exactly is “It”? Writer Elinor Glin wrote a magazine article called “It.” and a movie soon followed in 1927 starring Clara Bow. The sobriquet The “It Girl” was immediately and permanently attached to Clara Bow.

“Either you have “It” or you don’t have” It.”  “It” is sex appeal definitely, but much more than that.

In a 1927 interview, writer Glyn said you must have ALL of the following qualities: Continue reading

How To Choose A Mistress – In The “Politically Incorrect” 1960s

A 1960s Magazine Article on How To Choose A Mistress

In the article, “The Art of Selecting a Mistress” it is pointed out right at the beginning, “Love has nothing to do with it says this expert. You pick her like a car – for performance.”

Here is the quiz you are supposed to take before reading the article:

  1. The perfect mistress is:
    17 years of age (a)
    21 years of age (b)
    26 years of age (c)
    40 Years of age (d)
    75 years of age (e)
  2. The perfect mistress is (a) married (b) single (c) divorced
  3.  The perfect mistress is (a) in love with you (b) fond of you (c) crazy about herself
  4. The perfect mistress is (a) a working girl (b) well fixed (c) a working girl who needs a protector
  5. The perfect mistress is (a) intelligent (b) stupid (c) indifferent
  6. The perfect mistress is (a) owner of her own car (b) prefers cabs (c) likes men with expensive cars

A great number of topics written about in the 1960s would almost certainly be considered politically incorrect today. For many people, Selecting a Mistress from Monsieur Magazine by Mel Bennett would fall into that P.I. class.

Monsieur was a nudie titillation magazine published from 1957 through the mid- 1960s which  was several notches below Playboy in literary quality. Monsieur’s typical articles such as “Manhattan – Island of Sex Starved Men”, “Women Love To Be Unfaithful”, “Girl-Pinching Goes International” and “Making a Dame on A Plane” was not meant to attract many female readers.


While the answers to the quiz are on page 71 of Monsieur, unfortunately we can’t provide them.

The article image is from the New York Historical Society. As the Historical Society points out about this donated collection: “While not your standard scholarly fare, the Harvey Rosen and El Borracho Collection provides valuable insights into the supper club scene in New York as well as the decidedly un-feminist perception of women that characterized this era.”

Old New York In Photos #85 – 42nd Street From The 3rd Avenue Elevated 1887

42nd Street Looking West From 3rd Avenue Towards Grand Central 1887

This albumen photograph was taken in 1887 by Willis Knowlton who had his studio at 335 Fourth Avenue.

Knowlton set up his camera from the 42nd Street station of the Third Avenue Elevated looking west towards Grand Central Station. If you’re thinking, “wait a minute, why are there elevated tracks running west towards Grand Central?” The answer is, this connecting spur was in place between 1878 and 1923, taking commuters to and from Grand Central directly to the Third Avenue El. As practical as the connection was for the 15,000 daily riders still using it in 1923, the city’s Board of Estimate ordered its removal in October of that year. The IRT complied and the spur was closed at midnight December 6, 1923 and the tracks and station were demolished soon afterwards.

A little about the buildings seen in this photograph. Running along the northern (right) portion of 42nd Street at 145-147 East 42nd Continue reading

Occupy Wall Street 1938 Style

Wall Street Protest February 19, 1938

The Occupy Wall Street protest movement garnered a lot of media attention when it occurred in 2011.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer is a theme that has played out time and again over the course of American history.

The Great Depression put millions of Americans out of work. It wasn’t just about the rich versus the poor. It was about survival and a serious shortage of jobs.

Eighty years ago today, this is how a jobs protest was described as it reached Wall Street: Continue reading

Beat Your Son – By Order of The Court 1938

New York Judge Orders Mother To Beat Son – 1938

Are you one of the people who think that today’s juvenile delinquents are coddled and the justice system is too soft on petty crime? Maybe we should bring back “the good old days,” when corporal punishment and tough jail sentences were the norm for youthful offenders?

Then you might be surprised to learn that even during hard times 80 years ago, many people found the idea of beating children to be abhorrent, especially when ordered by a court of law.

If the goal of justice is to have the punishment equal the crime, then the sentence meted out by a New York magistrate did not go over very well with the public.

The Leather of the Law

New York, NY — In accordance with the orders of Magistrate Overton Harris, Mrs. Mary Bradley applies the strap to her son, Tommy who was one of eight Textile High School boys believed to have pulled the whistle cord on a New York subway train. Thomas and another boy were the only ones of the eight who didn’t run from the train. When young Bradley appeared with his mother in court, Magistrate Overton Harris ordered Mrs. Bradley to “prove to me on Thursday night that you gave your son a good thrashing or I’ll send him to jail.” Although Mrs. Bradley believed her son’s protestations of his innocence she is shown obeying to the letter of the law. credit line Acme – 5/25/1938

Judge Harris had also said to Mrs. Bradley, “Get a paddle, bore some holes in it, and make welts on the boy. Do you think you can do it?”

Despite this photographic evidence above, Mrs. Bradley, a widow living at 100 W. 96th Street, did not thrash her 16-year-old son. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #18 – Bridges

Some Unusual and Rare Postcard Views of New York City Bridges

An unusual circa 1900 postcard view of the Brooklyn Bridge promenade with elegantly attired ladies

We don’t think too much about New York City’s bridges except when driving across them. Then you want to know if they are free from traffic, tolls and potholes.

Besides being civic utilitarian objects, on occasion they be considered architectural masterpieces like the Brooklyn Bridge and George Washington Bridge.

But many of the old bridges crossing New York waterways had great thought put into their design. Unfortunately unless you are stuck in traffic or you bicycle or walk over them, you probably would not take the time to notice the turrets, iron flourishes and fine details that decorate and beautify most of New York City’s early bridges.

Let’s take a look at some 100+ year old bridge postcards and sprinkle in some interesting facts and stories.

Williamsburg Bridge at 6 pm 1906

The Williamsburg Bridge’s tower can be glimpsed in the background, but what makes this view interesting is its vantage point on Delancey Street. While not dated, the postcard has the printing year of 1906 and the time as 6:00 pm. Hundreds of Brooklynites make their way to the bridge to walk or take a trolley or elevated train back home.

If the Williamsburg Bridge seems crowded that’s because it is. In 1906 an estimated 1,191,000 pedestrians; 3,548,900 passengers and drivers of vehicles; 51 million surface car (trolley) passengers; 56 million elevated car passengers; and exactly 1,149,543 vehicles and 33,375 horses led by hand, crossed the bridge.

The Williamsburg Bridge was opened on December 19, 1903. The cost of the construction of the bridge with the land was $23,277,560.

Manhattan Bridge at night circa 1910

It is a snowy night and and the roads leading onto the Manhattan Bridge have a light coating of ice, snow and slush on them. The scene is brilliantly lit and there are vehicles or pedestrians in the scene. The Manhattan Bridge was opened for vehicular traffic December 31, 1909 and opened for pedestrian travel July 18, 1910. Including the land, the bridge cost $24,105,200.

Tolls were eliminated on the Williamsburg, Manhattan, Queensboro and Brooklyn Bridge on July 19, 1911 by order of Mayor Gaynor.

High Bridge is the oldest extant bridge in New York. Designed by John B. Jervis and completed in 1848 the bridge cost $963,428. The pedestrian bridge originally contained two three foot pipes which brought New York City fresh water from the Croton River, 41 miles away. The amount of water these pipes could carry was found to be inadequate within a dozen years. The side walls of the bridge were expanded and between 1860 -1864 a seven foot diameter water pipe was laid on top of the original two pipes.

The bridge was modeled after ancient Roman aqueducts, High Bridge’s 15 stone arches graced the river until the early 20th century. During World War I the bridge was declared a menace to navigation. Two proposals were put forward in 1918 to either remove two arches and replace that section with a steel span or entirely demolish the bridge at a cost of $150,000. Continue reading

More Unusual, Strange and Funny Cemetery Epitaphs

“Here lies the body of Henry Round
Who went to sea and never was found.”

Unusual Cemetery Epitaphs from Great Britain and the United States

We’ve covered unusual epitaphs before and the question that always comes to mind is: did the deceased intend to have these words placed upon their monument or is it more often the work of some comedic relative?

Funny Epitaphs by Arthur Eaton photo: Gil’s Book Loft Binghamton, NY

This collection in book form entitled Funny Epitaphs collected by Arthur Wentworth Eaton, (The Mutual Book Company), Boston, 1902, gathers up epitaphs from around Great Britain and the United States.

These inscriptions are claimed to be on tombstones. Eaton does not disclose how he compiled the epitaphs. Some quick research shows Eaton probably collected the majority of epitaphs from previously published sources. Unfortunately, in many of the examples, Eaton does not give names or more importantly the cemetery or location where the inscription can be found.

Like Ripley’s Believe It or Not, you’ll have to decide for yourself if these epitaphs can really be found in a cemetery.

Some are not so funny, but profound. Here is a selection of some of the better and more unusual epitaphs.



Here lies the body of Johnny Haskell,
A lying, thieving, cheating rascal ;
He always lied, and now he lies,
He has no soul and cannot rise.

Beneath this stone a lump of clay,
Lies Arabella Young ;
Who on the 24th of May,
Began to hold her tongue.

On a tombstone in New Jersey :

Reader, pass on I — don’t waste your time
On bad biography and bitter rhyme ;
For what I ant, this crumbling clay insures.
And what I was, is no affair of yours

At Wolstanton :
Mrs. Ann Jennings

Some have children, some have none ;
Here lies the mother of twenty-one.

Ruth Sprague tombstone Hoosick Falls, NY

There is an epitaph of an eccentric character that
may be seen on a tombstone at the burying-grounds
near Hoosick Falls, New York. It reads :

Ruth Sprague, Daughter of Gibson and Elizabeth Sprague.
Died June 11, 1846, aged 9 years, 4 months, and 3 days.
She was stolen from the grave by Roderick R. Clow, dissected at Dr. P. M. Armstrong’s office, in Hoosick, N. Y., from which place her mutilated remains were obtained and deposited here.

Her body dissected by fiendish man,
Her bones anatomized,
Her soul, we trust, has risen to God,
Where few physicians rise.

Here I lie, and no wonder I am dead,
For the wheel of a wagon went over my head.

Tread softly mortals o’er the bones
Of this world’s wonder, Captain Jones,
Who told his glorious deeds to many
Yet never was believed by any.
Posterity let this suffice
He swore all’s true, yet here he lies.


This is all that remains of poor Ben Hough
He had forty-nine years and that was enough.
Of worldly goods he had his share,
And now he’s gone to the Devil’s snare.

Here lies the body of Henry Round
Who went to sea and never was found. Continue reading